Jan 022011

We made it a two-movie week with TRON: Legacy today.  BamaDan, his two older boys, my dad, our boys, and I saw it in 3D this afternoon.

I’m not going to give a detailed back story, because chances are excellent that if you care you already know it.  Quoting the IMDb plot summary:

The son of a virtual world designer goes looking for his father and ends up inside the digital world that his father designed. He meets his father’s creation turned bad and a unique ally who was born inside the digital domain of The Grid.

The whole story is pages long, but that’s enough for traction.

TRON: Legacy is, of course, the sequel to TRON, which was made with state-of-the-art 1982 computer graphics and has therefore visually aged more poorly than just about any movie you can name.  I think the approach is necessarily a bit different with TRON: Legacy.  State-of-the-art now, of course, means nearly anything, elevating the importance of selecting a design motif.  In 1982, it was “whatever we can do, and throw it all up there”; now it’s “given all we can do, what should we throw up there?”

Now I’m certainly not asserting that TRON: Legacy will never look as primitive as TRON does now, but I suspect it’ll take a little longer.  Moreover, I think the visuals in this film do an excellent job of wowing, while still using a language that ties them directly to the first film.  They’re worth a big-screen view, not only for the stuff you expect like the light cycles, but for the sprawling landscapes of color and shape.

Incidentally, the 3D was barely noticeable, and I’m looking forward to taking this one in on Blu-ray (presumably brighter).

My one significant complaint is that the film takes much too long to find its legs.  An entire half-hour in, I was thinking “oh, wow, I can’t believe we’re all signed up for another hour and a half of this.”  Apart from much of Bridges’ work and a memorable but brief turn by Michael Sheen, there is not a lot of strong acting to be had here, and that’s unflatteringly accentuated in the pre-grid scenes.

Worse, even after we get to the grid, it’s a good ten minutes before we care.  Garrett Hedlund’s Sam Flynn cracks jokes and throws away lines intended to be descriptive of his plight, but despite a bit of alluring femalia as he’s equipped, it was definitely still “all right, let’s throw discs and ride light cycles already.”

Once they do, it’s pleasantly relentless.  It’s a fun tear when everybody’s fighting, chasing, or both, and you get plenty of that ladled into your bowl.  Even the occasional more pensive moments work after they’re in the hands of Bridges and Olivia Wilde.  Her Quorra is beautiful and formidable.

I was eleven years old when TRON came out, so there’s a significant nostalgia factor for me here.  It works for that.  I think it probably works well enough on its own, too.  It was hard to have anything but modest expectations, because there were too many ways it could go wrong, but I think TRON: Legacy largely succeeds.


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 Posted by at 7:00 pm

  4 Responses to “Review: TRON: Legacy”

  1. Bo, what did you think of the CGI’ed younger Jeff Bridges/Clu? I thought it looked cold, flat and emotionless most of the time, like the video in a cut scene in a video game.

  2. Scott, I think the visual effect I got was that it looked like someone wearing too much makeup. 🙂 It didn’t bother me much, perhaps because the character was a computer program? I don’t know. Maybe I was forgiving of it because even with flaws, it was mostly plausibly pulled off, and that’s an accomplishment in itself.

    I meant to mention the soundtrack and forgot. It would drive me crazy listening to it in the car or at work—much too techno—but it suited the film well.

  3. So I had time to digest and came up with my own thoughts:

    – The script was lazy. No, beyond lazy, it was plagiarized. Call me when the Wachowski Brothers sue Disney, but wasn’t this just _The Matrix_ Lite? When the movie introduced its own unnecessary, European club owner (Merovingian) complete with sexed-up companion (but no Persephone), it wasn’t homage. It was theft. And theft of a really crappy idea. Runaway program trying to conquer the “real world” with an army of clones? Check. Preachy, muddled pseudo-message? Check. None of this seemed necessary. _Tron_ had its own mythology and no need to try and create the “deeper world” that Legacy really tried hard to accomplish. It just smelled of someone who had never seen the original trying to make more room for more action figures.

    – The homages to the original were very nice. The self-referential treatment of the Tron videogame were cool. But come on…the movie was called _Tron_ not _Flynn_. Would it be too much to ask that the CGI-youthified Bruce Boxleitner get some more screen time? No Cindy Morgan? No David Warner? No MCP? Lots of balls dropped in that department.

    – But then again there were some cool spots. The visuals were a lot of fun. I know you thought it took too long to get started, but that followed the original plot in flow. I liked the “real world” intrigue and actually thought we would get a Dillinger-like antagonist on the outside. But that was thrown away also.

    – Sure the original looks like a Guy Maddin movie now, but it didn’t try and violate the basic rules of the computer world. Boo made a good point to me when he said he liked the light cycles in the original more because they turned on corners, not curves. So simple, yet so profound. Transportation in the Tron world should turn on corners (like bit cycles) rather than CGI curves and jumps and pithy one-liners.

    – All in all this was better than I thought, but felt more like a subsequent Godzilla movie rather than a direct sequel. One in which it was designed to be stand alone so that you didn’t have to be familiar with the original. 3 out of 5 stars (and creeping towards 2.5 the more I think about it).

  4. Hmmm.

    I’m sympathetic to your Matrix charges to a point, mostly in details. I consumed Michael Sheen’s performance enthusiastically, but yeah, I’ll agree that he’s unnecessarily lifted. The quiet moments intended to bolster the frenzy with deep thinking? Check. They even aped the bad acting. 🙂

    But on the whole, I think it’s important to remember that the Wachowskis didn’t invent alternate universes, hive-mind armies, or brain-in-a-vat either. I think they were visionaries–maybe even revolutionaries–but their vision and revolution were of integration and enhancement, not invention. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Shakespeare wasn’t a plot man either.

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